In anticipation of summer | A foodie bucket list

Sunday, August 09, 2015

With Sydney’s recent chilly cold snap this week and a calendar which seems to be flipping ever so rapidly towards the end of the year (What? Only four months until Christmas?! WHAT?!), I’ve been dreaming ever so blissfully of warmer weather and all the glorious summer fruits and vegetables that will come into season. To fulfil those wishful musings, I thought I’d write a post about all the things I’m looking forward to this not too distant summer.

Chia Seed Pudding

When one thinks about winter breakfasts, there’s a good chance that porridge will come to mind. A warm, comforting bowl of creamy oats laced with lashings of honey is the perfect way to start a cold morning. Likewise, when the weather is warm and bright, I see chia pudding as the summer version of porridge. It’s got that same soft, almost gelatinous texture, and can be easily customised with almost any porridge topping imaginable. Even better, it can be made and left overnight, so that you don’t even have to whip out the saucepan in the morning!

More likely than not you may have already heard about the great nutritional benefits of chia seeds – being high in omega-3 and fibre among other good stuff – but you don’t necessarily have to have this only for breakfast. It also makes for a good snack or an uber-healthy dessert.  

About one third of a cup of chia seeds to one cup of liquid is the typical ratio for soaking the chia, but for a single serving you can halve it and combine two tablespoons of chia with half a cup of liquid. It doesn’t seem like much, but the seeds absorb the liquid in the same way that oats do when cooking porridge, so a little bit goes a long way. I prefer to use milk as the liquid, but coconut milk works really well as a more flavoursome, vegan alternative too. At this stage, if you’d like to spice it up a little, you can add a teaspoon of cocoa powder or even a sprinkling of cinnamon or splash of vanilla. Add a teaspoon or maple syrup or honey to sweeten, leave in the fridge overnight and give it a gentle stir before layering the soaked seeds with goodies. It’s a very forgiving recipe, so if the texture is too thick a splash of milk will loosen it up nicely. 

The puddings can be served porridge-style with all the toppings sprinkled on top, or, if you’d prefer it a little more attractive, layer it in a cute cup or mason jar for a parfait-style pudding. I like to layer mine with whatever berries are in season, as well as roughly chopped nuts or muesli for texture. For a creamy, sweet hit, a dollop of yoghurt works really well, too. A dusting of coconut and some finely chopped mint balances it out by adding an uplifting, refreshing touch.  

Chia pudding is a great way to make use of the abundance of fresh summer fruit, and is such a healthy, easily to prepare and customise recipe that I can’t wait to make more of once the weather warms up.

Frangipane Tart

If you love to bake like I do, the hot temperatures of summer will do little to deter you from cranking up that oven and whipping up some baked goods. Tarts are one of my favourite things to bake in summer – despite the unsuitable conditions for pastry making – because they don’t need to be served hot. There are free form tarts, tarts filled with cream topped with fresh fruit, custard tarts, lemon tarts, tartlets… the varieties are endless! My favourite is frangipane tart, which combines a short, buttery tart base with the cakey texture of an almond-laced frangipane filling, topped studded with vibrant fruit.

Baking a raspberry frangipane tart

This is a gorgeous dessert that is perfect for all seasons because it can be made using any fruit you like. In summer, dot it with tart raspberries, peach or nectarine slices, or lightly poached rhubarb. The great thing about it is that you don’t even need to wait until specific fruits are in season to bake this tart; in autumn and winter it’s great with thin slivers of apple or pear. The frangipane mixture is a little moister than a typical cake batter, which puffs up and envelopes the fruit as it bakes. Sprinkle on some flaked almonds or press in macadamia halves before baking for an extra textural dimension and added attractiveness. If pressed for time you don’t even need to make the pastry, just use good quality shortcrust and blind bake as normal.

Homemade mini peach frangipane tart

Fresh strawberries and cream 

Of course, if you don’t feel like making a tart you could instead bake a simple sponge sandwich and fill it with lashings of freshly whipped cream and seasonal summer berries. This is a much humbler, but by no means any less delicious, way to utilise fruit, especially berries, when they're in season. And sometimes, it’s the simpler things like this cake that really put a smile on your face.

Bread baking

Pineapple Bun (Bo Lo Bao)

Tropical Aussie pineapples come into their own in summer. As much as I love devouring the sweet fruit, cut into juicy chunks, on it's own, I’m itching to try my hand at baking pineapple buns (bo lo bao in Cantonese). These are sweet buns synonymous with Asian bakeries and, contrary to what the name suggests, don’t contain any actual pineapple. Rather, they have a cross-hatched topping that resembles the spiky outer of pineapple skins. The recipe for the dough consists of some out of the ordinary baking ingredients like milk powder and vegetable shortening, and the process involves making a separate sweet, short topping dough which gets laid upon the buns before baking. The resulting baked bun is soft, fluffy, and not very sweet at all, with the majority of the flavour coming from the crumbly yellow 'crust' that develops as it bakes. I think I'll save a rainy day for baking these buns, which are one of my childhood favourites. 


Photo credit: Tina Qi (@thelifeofqi)

Zucchini is another vegetable which is plentiful in summer. Aside from these zucchini fritters, a recipe I’ve been meaning to cook for a long time is for zoodles – zucchini noodles. This was all over the internet last year, and I’m a bit late in jumping on the bandwagon. This is partly because we are yet to purchase one of those special vegetable spiralizers or peelers which enable the transformation of the humble zucchini into those thin, spaghetti-like strands. Teamed with a fresh tomato sauce or this pad thai recipe, come summer I’ll definitely be giving this wholesome, carb-free alternative a try!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

When I think of summer, I immediately think of ice cream and gelato. Any frozen, creamy concoction is my absolute weakness. Even though it’s not a food that’s particularly restricted to the warmer months, nothing beats licking away at soft, luscious, velvety gelato in a wafer-like waffle cone. Do you know what’s even better than gelato? Gelato-filled cannoli.

Chocolate, Hazelnut and Pisachio gelato cannoli from Meno Diciotto

One of our family’s absolute favourite gelatarias in Sydney is Meno Diciotto, which offers both traditional and unconventional award-winning flavours like yoghurt and lemon meringue, as well as scrumptious gelato cannoli and gelato sandwiches. The classic flavours of hazelnut and pistachio are both so authentic and leave a deeply nutty taste on the palette; the aromatic cannoli shell that encases it is an ingenious alternative to the conventional cone.

Gelato cannoli, kinder macaron and chocolate ice cream sandwich from Meno Diciotto

Vermicelli salads

Lemongrass pork and spring roll vermicelli salad from Mama's Buoi

Salads are synonymous with summer, but with the addition of slippery, flavour-absorbing rice vermicelli noodles and the crisp, crunch and bite of fresh herbs, carrot and cucumber, they get a whole lot more exciting. I can’t wait to whip up one of these for a nourishing, flavour-packed meal. They can be topped with grilled pork or beef, tofu, or fried spring rolls for an even naughtier meal. The tumble of herbs and noodles are dressed in a tangy, sweet nuoc cham sauce. It’s so easy to put together, and after polishing off a big bowl of this you can’t help but feel a little pleased with yourself for having eaten so healthily ;).

Grilled pork chop vermicelli salad from Pho Toan Thang

So, there you have it; my ultimate summer food bucket list. They use and are inspired by the tropical freshness of summer and all the seasonal produce that comes with it. And despite the fact that summer in Sydney still seems quite a long way off, this list is enough to get me excited for the delicious food adventures that are to come! 

If you're hungry for more and wanting to create your own summer bucket list, check out Eventbrite's Sydney-specific website for some great foodie events to tickle your tastebuds. They also have some handy events management resources if you're looking to hold your own tasty event!

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  1. Sponge cake with strawberries and cream is one of my absolute favourites. And now you've given me a craving for polo bao too!

  2. Oh maddie, now you make me want summer to come, and then when it does, i'll want winter...
    but mm~~ I can't wait to see you share a po lor bao recipe... so i can THINK I'll also attempt, but end up just buying one hahaha!